How not to fall: In the fight against sexual temptation, defence is not enough
Pastor Joanne Chow, Pasir Panjang Hill Brethren Church // February 19, 2021, 4:25 pm
The news of Christian leaders’ moral failures, particularly in the area of sexual misconduct, is always a wake-up call for me.
As a pastor, it’s a sober reminder to pursue purity and holiness – not just in public but also in private.
This can really trip people up in their walk with God. I know because I, too, have struggled.
When I was growing up – even while being a youth leader, cell group leader and worship leader – I have looked at, watched and listened to things that I really shouldn’t have.
Sometimes I stumbled upon them; other times I consciously watched or listened, knowing that they were unwholesome and unholy.
And then when I was dating my boyfriend (now husband), I was faced with a whole new level of temptation.
The reality is that physical affection feels good, especially when you’re attracted to the person and both of you grow increasingly close.
My husband and I were very clear that we weren’t going to have sex before we got married, but we still struggled with physical boundaries or even the way we thought about each other’s bodies.
That’s why I always tell people not to start dating so young. Dating for a long time before you can get married means you’ll be struggling with this for a long time!
The struggle is real, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing we can do about it.
Whether you’re single, dating or married, I’d like to suggest 3Ps to avoid falling into temptation.
1. PROTECT YOURSELF
The Bible says to flee from sexual immorality, so set up defences for yourself.
Put distance between you and that which will tempt you. Do everything you can to stay away from that which will harm you.
This probably means different things for each of us. Perhaps we need to delete certain apps, unfollow certain Instagram or TikTok accounts, or stop watching certain shows.
It can actually be quite annoying because it sometimes blocks certain safe pages (e.g. Christian articles on dating) simply because they contain the word “sex”.
I also know of a pastor who set up a system where every website that he visits – both on his computer and phone – is recorded, and a report of his online activity is sent every month to two people who have the authority to fire him.
That’s a small price to pay if we’re serious about protecting ourselves. It’s better to be inconvenienced occasionally than to leave ourselves open to temptation.
Jesus also said it’s better to lose an eye or hand if it causes you to stumble (Matthew 5:29).
What He really meant was: If we don’t take extreme measures to deal with our sin, it can lead to disastrous consequences that are worse than losing a part of our body.
You might be wondering: “You mean you’re a 38-year-old pastor and you still need to set restrictions on your phone?”
To be honest, I’m not tempted to look at pornographic stuff most of the time.
But I want to set up defences that will help me avoid temptation for that one day, that one moment when I’m weak and in danger of stumbling.
So be honest with yourself about the things that lead you into temptation, and do whatever it takes to guard yourself.
2. PARTNER WITH OTHERS
Sexual struggles are usually things that we don’t like to talk about – unlike other sins that we’re more willing to confess to and share with others.
But the more we keep these things hidden, the harder they become to deal with.
So get a trusted person or people who can be part of your support group and defence strategy against temptation.
Find someone whom you can share your struggles with, and whom will pray with you and for you. Allow trusted friends and leaders to check on you and call you out.
That is the point of having a Christian community, right?
Accountability reminds and assures us that we’re not alone in our struggles; we can spur one another on in our pursuit of purity.
Imagine if all of us were honest about our struggles and committed to helping each other guard against sexual temptations.
Can I also make a special appeal to the girls?
Let’s help our brothers by not dressing in a revealing or provocative way*.
Of course you don’t have control over their lustful thoughts, and it may not be a sin to wear that skintight dress or post that bikini photo, but if we can help our brothers, why not?
Avoid it not because we must do it, but because we love each other as brothers and sisters in Christ.
3. PURSUE GOD
Having said all of this, a defence strategy is not enough. We need to go on the offence too.
To pursue purity, we shouldn’t just be thinking about what we can’t do, can’t watch or can’t listen to.
We need to actively focus our minds and thoughts on God – on seeking Him and pursuing Him. The best offence strategy is to know God.
As we pursue God, we…
- encounter His holiness and beauty and grace.
- see how much He cares for us.
- discover that He knows every detail of our sins and our weaknesses, and yet loves us completely.
- realise He is the only one in whom we can find complete satisfaction, delight and pleasure in.
- understand that He is the only one who can make us holy, as He is holy.
- experience more and more of His power over sin and the freedom that He brings.
Knowing all this will help us triumph over temptation.
As John Piper says: “We defeat the deceitful pleasures of lust with the superior pleasures of knowing God.”
I realise that the times when I’m most vulnerable to sexual temptation are the times when I stop pursuing God or drift away from Him.
But when I’m spending precious time in prayer with Him daily, when I’m studying the Bible and meditating on His Word, when I’m serving Him passionately, I find myself with much less time to be distracted.
The temptations of this world just don’t look so good when you’re focused on serving and pursuing the only One who is good.
“We defeat the deceitful pleasures of lust with the superior pleasures of knowing God.”
I don’t know where you’re at in your pursuit of purity. Even if it’s been a constant intense battle, I want to encourage you that at least you’re still struggling!
Because when you’re struggling, it means you haven’t given up. So don’t beat yourself up and get overwhelmed with guilt or self-hatred.
Even the great apostle Paul called himself a wretched man, saying: “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing.” (Romans 7:19)
And yet he ends that chapter by saying: “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
And that is what we can take heart in – that in Christ our Saviour, purity is possible.
*As a female pastor writing to females in this article, Pastor Joanne made a special appeal to the girls on the issue of dressing. However, the same principle of not stumbling one another applies to the guys as well.
We would also like to clarify that this point should not be taken to mean that it is the women’s dressing that is at fault in cases of sexual harassment or assault. We have always denounced such acts of violence and have said that perpetrators must bear responsibility for their offences.
Pastor Joanne is the Youth Pastor at Pasir Panjang Hill Brethren Church and also serves on the impossible413 (FOPx) team. She is passionate about the next generation and loves seeing young people fulfil their God-given destiny. She is married to John, and they have three daughters.
THINK + TALK
- Are there things or situations that you need to stay away from to avoid falling into temptation?
- Who can you ask for help and support in guarding against sexual sin?
- What steps do you need to take to pursue intimacy with God?